Abbasi, Nepali leaders discuss BRI, Saarc

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Mar 7, 2018-Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi wrapped up his two-day official visit to Kathmandu on Tuesday, after discussing with Nepal’s leaders the Belt and Road Initiative of China and a proposal to revive the stalled Saarc process.

Abbasi had meetings with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. At the dinner hosted by PM Oli on Monday evening, the visiting prime minister met some former prime ministers of Nepal. However, ex-PMs Sher Bahadur Deuba and Baburam Bhattarai skipped the event.

During the delegation level talks with PM Oli on Monday evening and with Dahal on Tuesday morning, the Pakistani PM took up two issues of geopolitical significance for Nepal—the BRI and the Saarc process.

In his meeting with Oli, Abbasi shared the progress made with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under China’s BRI in which Pakistan is building huge infrastructure such as rail, road, ports, airports and electricity grids.

“The matter of BRI came up after Oli and Abbasi discussed peace and development in the region. He informed our PM about progress in the project,” said Bishnu Rimal, chief adviser to PM Oli.

“This [BRI) could be a game changer for entire South Asia and I’m happy to note that Nepal has become a part of it,” Abbasi is said to have told his Nepali counterpart.

According to senior Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, during the meeting with the party leadership, Abbasi expressed his happiness that Nepal had signed up for the BRI.

Nepal and China signed an understanding in May last year on BRI membership but Kathmandu is yet to select projects under the initiative.

According to Pakistani news agency APP, in a meeting between Abbasi and Oli, particular focus was laid on the CPEC and the BRI. He said CPEC would ensure connectivity of regional countries with China and all Central Asian states. Abbasi said Pakistan was ready to share experience and knowledge with Nepal on matters related to the CPEC.

On Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, Abbasi said the project was not confined to gas supply but was a flagship venture that included a road network, railway lines and fibre optic.

While encouraging Nepal’s leadership to benefit from the BRI, the Pakistani PM, whose relations with the Chinese leadership are “excellent”, also advocated faster moves for regional peace, stability, development and prosperity.

Delivering a short statement at the Saarc Secretariat on Tuesday after planting a sapling on its premises, he said Pakistan has undivided belief in the objectives, ideologies and principles of the Saarc. Expressing his country’s full commitment to the Saarc Charter, he said peace, security and mutual friendship are essential for prosperity of South Asia.

During his meeting with PM Oli, Abbasi announced doubling of scholarship quotas for deserving Nepali students to pursue MBBS and other courses in Pakistan.

Published: 07-03-2018 08:10

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